Leroy’s great escape

IT’S a common occurrence to hear someone complaining about their job, about where they live, or how they want to get away from their lives just for a week or two and go on a holiday.

Albany lad Leroy Savage decided to stop talking and start doing and took it all a bit further when he landed the idea of a bike ride through South America.

Planning for the ambitious 16-month trip began in 2016 when Leroy and his mate Jono (it’s just ‘Jono’) decided they were sick of what they were doing.

“We both needed a change,” Leroy said, when he sat down with The Weekender to re-tell his epic journey.

“I was sick of my FIFO job, where I was living, and wanted to escape a bad relationship.

“We both wanted to go to South America, so we looked at buying a Kombi but decided it was going to be too expensive and too hard to cross borders.”

Luckily the trip wasn’t completely lost when the idea was floated to cycle instead.

“Jono’s cousin had recently finished cycling from San Francisco down to Ushuaia in Argentina. He’d been thinking of doing it for a while. That bloke can sell ice to an Eskimo,” Leroy said.

A quick scour on Gumtree for a bike, and $100 later, Leroy had the 1996 Marin Bear Valley SE mountain bike that would take him more than 14,000km through South America.

Leroy started his journey from Ushuaia, nicknamed ‘the end of the world’, as it is the southern-most city on the planet.

After spending some time winding through Argentina and Chile, Leroy pedalled through Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru.

He said there were only a few moments when he questioned why he decided to tackle such a long ride.

“There was one moment when I was riding through San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, it was just these horrible gravelly-sandy roads and strong head winds,” he said.

“It was all desert with hardly any places from shelter out of the wind. It was getting so cold during the night that my water bottle with about 700ml in it was freezing solid.

“I was there for a week trying to ride through it. When I got to the other side I was a bit physically and mentally broken.

“The thought crossed my mind of going home.”

Despite the testing conditions Leroy continued his journey, cycling through mountain passes and jungles.

“The most disappointing part about riding through the jungle was that I didn’t see a puma,” he said.

“There weren’t even that many birds, just lots of weird insects and howler monkeys.

“I didn’t come across any live snakes, just ones on the side of the road that had been run over.

“I saw heaps of tarantulas though. I’d help them cross the road.”

Since returning to Albany in time for Christmas with his family, Leroy’s days have seemed almost slow in comparison to life on the road.

“I’ve been back for nearly a month and I’m starting to make bad habits again,” he said.

“Life at home just isn’t as free as it was on the road. All you need to worry about when you’re cycling is food, water and where you’ll camp for the night. The routine is super addictive.

“When you get home it’s all about the money, spending it and earning it.

“I don’t have a phone contract, or a license or car, and straight way I’ve started spending way less.”

Leroy continues to cycle around Albany waiting for inspiration for his next trip.

“It was the best thing I’ve done in my life so far,” he said.

“The only thing I could say to someone who is thinking of cycling for a holiday is ‘what are you waiting for?’.”

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City jewel gets new tenant

A STATE heritage-listed York Street landmark, vacant for the past 18 months, will be tenanted once more when Mark Blyth Fine Jewellery moves in at the end of January.

From letting agent Doug Pearson, Mark and Tamara Blyth recently received the key to Albany House, erected in 1884 on the corner of York Street and Stirling Terrace.

Mr Pearson said the Blyths would lease the 152sqm downstairs space for close to the asking price of $27,360 a year.

“It’ll be great, because they have a really good product and it’s been hidden where it is at the moment,” he said.

“They’re going to set it up nicely, with good interior layouts, designs and finishes.

“This will give them a lot more exposure.”

For the past nine years, the Blyths’ jewellery business has been located in a shopfront across York Street from Albany House, in the Empire Buildings, which are on Albany’s local heritage register.

That shop-front is now up for lease.

Ms Blyth said the business should start trading from its new premises on January 29, depending on whether the City of Albany approves an application to convert the space from commercial to office use by then.

“For the first time in Mark’s 20-plus years as a jeweller he’ll have windows in his workshop,” she said.

“He won’t be working in a little dungeon out the back.”

Mr Blyth said the white marble of an existing fireplace in Albany House would be mirrored in a white marble shop counter he’d commissioned from Perth that would come in at a cool $14,000.

“We baulked at it for a couple of weeks, then we decided we should just do it,” he confided.

He said the bespoke building would be consistent with the hand-crafted nature of much of his jewellery.

A massive London-built safe from the building’s original use as a bank will again store valuables for the jewellery shop and for members of the public wishing to safeguard personal treasures.

Albany House was added to the State Register of Heritage Places in 1999.

Notable for pre-dating the gold rush, the building housed a branch of the Union Bank and then of the ANZ Bank, from 1884 to 1973.

For many decades, its sprawling top floor was home to whoever was bank manager at the time.

Mr Pearson said the 136sqm top floor was still available – for $16,320 a year.

“It’s Central Area zoning, which allows some really good uses there,” he said.

“It goes from retail, to office, to restaurant subject to conformity with health regulations.

“It’s a very prominent position right in town, and you’re looking out over the harbour, of course.”

The building’s most recent long-term tenant was an engineering firm.

A vegan café occupied the downstairs space for a short while after the engineering firm vacated.

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Developers’ picnic at Frenchies

A SILVER BULLET that could deliver a tourist resort for Vancouver Peninsula and allay environmental concerns at Goode Beach has arrived courtesy of an application for a 25-unit holiday retreat at the defunct Frenchman Bay Caravan Park.

As opponents ramp up a campaign to stop a 51-unit five-star resort at Goode Beach, The Weekender can reveal that Harley Dykstra Town Planners has applied to build 24 holiday units and a ‘caretaker’s commercial building’ at the jaded van park site.

Recently, Frenchman Bay Association President Tony Kinlay (‘Goode plan, wrong place’, 19 October, 2017) and Traditional Custodian Lynette Knapp (‘A mighty Wagyl breathes here’, 23 November, 2017) said a resort at the former van park would be better, environmentally and culturally, than one at Goode Beach.

Yesterday, University of Western Australia Chair in Biodiversity Steve Hopper agreed.

“From an environmental and cultural heritage viewpoint, provided all necessary assessments are undertaken and controls implemented, that site has a number of advantages and fewer disadvantages than the Goode Beach proposal,” said the Goode Beach resident, who today will co-host a briefing by opponents of the Goode Beach resort for media outlets at Lake Vancouver.

“It’s already cleared, so a development with a strong environmental ethic would actually create an opportunity to restore habitat for threatened fauna and remove pernicious environmental weeds on the edge of the national park.

“In relation to wildfire, there’s no need for additional roads across wetlands, and all the disruption of amenity that would occur with the Lake Vancouver development would not apply there.”

An online petition launched last week to protest the Goode Beach plans attracted more than 1800 signatures from around the world in its first two days.

In 2015, Harley Dykstra achieved approval of a development plan for the van park site on behalf of West Perth-based MTK Ventures Pty Ltd.

After MTK sought 30 units, including 10 unrestricted-stay ones, 28 objections were lodged.

The request for unrestricted-stay units was withdrawn, and Albany city councillors unanimously endorsed a maximum of 25 units, including the caretaker’s building.

Also unanimously endorsed was a provision regarding the need for any on-site effluent disposal to be referred for Department of Health consideration.

A further 46 public submissions supported the project, which Harley Dykstra had called the ‘Frenchman Bay Retreat’.

A development sign is yet to be placed at the site, but City of Albany Executive Director Development Services Paul Camins confirmed the project would be advertised “soon” for public comment.

If approved, the application would be the final stage of a protracted process that in 2009 saw Dykstra Planning unsuccessfully apply for 100 units on the van park site on behalf of an entity called Frenchman Bay 5 Star Resort Unit Trust.

In November, city councillors were set to vote on whether a structure plan for the Goode Beach resort was acceptable to them.

But the plans were pulled, probably until February, after the Department of Fire and Emergency Services raised concerns over emergency access to the La Perouse Court site (Goode Beach plans pulled, 23 November, 2017).

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Funding boost for new festival

THE new Albany Arts Festival Season has received a helping hand from the State Government for its inaugural program that kicks off next month.

As revealed by The Weekender in December, the Albany Arts Festival will be held over three months and will incorporate local, national and international arts acts to fill the void left by the Perth International Arts Festival’s exit from the Great Southern.

On a quick visit to the Albany Entertainment Centre, Minister for Regional Development Alannah MacTiernan said a modest $15,000 would be granted to the festival via the Great Southern Development Commission, with the aim of driving economic development and local job creation.

“This is world-class stuff we have here,” Ms MacTiernan said of the festival line-up.

“The festival will have things we don’t normally see in Albany, and be an important part of economic and social stimulus, as a tourism attractor.

“It will add to Albany’s rich tapestry and make a fantastic addition to the Great Southern.”

Both Ms MacTiernan and member for Albany Peter Watson were enthusiastic about the arts festival, and urged the University of Western Australia, the founder of the Perth International Arts Festival, to reconsider their move to not be involved in the event.

“The State Government did support the new Wave Energy Research Centre [new UWA Albany campus resource] with a lot of funding, so we are pushing for UWA to revisit their decision,” Ms MacTiernan said.

The Albany Arts Festival will commence in February and run until April.

Tickets for the range of performances and a list of the acts are available online at albanyentertainment.com.au.

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Bright minds have world at their feet

DRIVEN by the desire to earn bragging rights over older siblings and the chance to score a retro car, Albany year 12 graduates James Hearle, Scott Fielding, Danaleigh Victor and Nicholas Gillespie worked hard and achieved impressive Australian Tertiary Admission Ranks (ATAR), which were released a day earlier than expected in mid-December.

Great Southern Grammar pupil James received an ATAR of 96.55, which he hopes to use to get into engineering at Curtin University or aerospace engineering at the Australian National University.

“I wanted to get 97 because Dad would have bought me a Beetle if I had, but I was still pretty stoked with what I got,” James said.

“I’m hoping to do some travelling and work this year, and go to uni next year.”

Albany Senior High School (ASHS) student Scott knew the first person he had to reveal his 94.6 ATAR score to was his older sister, of whom he was incredibly driven to beat.

“I was a bit nervous about getting my score because I thought I didn’t do well in physics, and I was worried about the scaling, but I was really happy with how I went,” he said.

“I snapchatted my sister straight away and told her I was smarter than her, and then I told my parents.

“They were more excited than me; Mum was dancing around the house.”

Scott hopes to pursue a physiotherapy degree at Curtin University or a biomedical science degree at the University of Western Australia (UWA).

ASHS graduate Danaleigh found out the ATAR results had been posted early via a Facebook group chat, and felt relieved when she saw her 96.7 score.

“I think I nearly fainted!” she said.

“It was really nerve-wracking because I wanted to get into medicine at UWA, so hopefully, with the rural bonus points, I will have enough to get into it.”

She hopes to study at the UWA Albany campus full-time this year, and continue her studies in Perth in 2019.

ASHS student Nicholas Gillespie earned himself a whopping 97.5 ATAR score, and said he was happy with his efforts.

“I’m hoping to go to UWA and do a physics degree,” he said.

“I’m going to live on campus and study full-time and work a bit, which will be a good chance to meet new people.”

The final closing date for applying or re-arranging preferences for university acceptance on the Tertiary Institutions Service Centre (TISC) website is today at 11pm, with main round offers available online and via email on January 17.

From this day, applications and change of preferences re-open for second round university offers and the second final closing date will be January 22.

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Hats off to graduating class

THIS year’s graduating class from the University of Western Australia Albany Centre proudly stood before friends and family this week at the Albany Entertainment Centre to mark the completion of their undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD degrees.

Among the 2017 class were 15 undergraduates, seven postgraduates and three PhD students, of whom UWA Albany Centre manager Paula Phillips said had worked hard to reach their achievements.

“The UWA Albany community is extremely proud of the Albany graduates who have completed their degrees this year,” she said.

“The students’ hard work and perseverance has paid off and they can all be satisfied on reaching this achievement.”

“We are looking forward to future growth in the coming year as we offer more students the access to higher education in the Great Southern.”

The graduating class included The Weekender’s own Grace Jones, who achieved a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English and Cultural Studies, and History.

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Manji firm wins contract

A MANJIMUP company adept at abseiling has beaten four other firms to win a $470,000 contract to maintain the Valley of The Giants treetop walk over the next two years.

The Weekender can reveal that Precision Contracting Pty Ltd has won the right to watch over the elevated steel structure at the popular tourist attraction near the western edge of Denmark Shire.

Company director Darren Kitchen said awaiting news on which company had won the project was quite nerve-wracking.

“That was a hell of a three-month wait up against some of the big players in the game and the multinationals that have started up what we’re doing,” he said.

“We’ve been doing it for years, and it was such a relief to get the contract back.

“Everyone wants that project in their portfolio.”

Mr Kitchen said Precision had maintained the treetop walk since it opened in 1996, except for a brief period when undercut by another company.

He said the company had cut its prices to stave off competition for the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions contract.

“It’s something that we want to hang on to and maybe hand over to one of my boys down the track,” he confided.

Precision started in Manjimup in 1994, and now also has bases in Collie, Darwin and Newcastle.

In addition to Denmark’s treetop walk, the company maintains the spectacular Tahune Airwalk south of Hobart in Tasmania.

His abseilers were at the Valley of the Giants on Tuesday and Wednesday doing the treetop walk’s annual pre-Christmas inspection.

The department has confirmed the $470,000 price was “in line with” the cost of previous maintenance for the steel treetop walk structure.

Work includes tensioning guy-wires, welding on the walk structure, repairing and replacing structural fixings, treating and preventing corrosion, testing weld and metal thickness, cleaning areas not accessible by ground staff, and digging to expose and treat pylon basins and supports.

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Hearts on the line

ALBANY senior medical practitioner Brendan Carson has made it his ambition to give regional patients the same health care as metropolitan citizens and create a closer connection between the Albany Health Campus and the wider community.

His new book, Heartline, was written with the goal of using the profits to purchase two or three portable cardiac monitors, which cost approximately $2400 each.

This would enable wards other than the high dependency unit to use the technology and allow more efficient care of patients.

Dr Carson practices general medicine and works in the medical, surgical and high dependency wards at the Albany Health Campus, and his experiences from his career form the basis of his new book.

“The book is basically a memoir of a few of the things that happened in my first few years of medicine,” he said.

“At the time, I was working in another state, and I worked a variety of jobs – public methadone clinic, emergency and psychiatric wards, one of the “street kids” clinics.

“I’m fascinated by people and their stories, and I’ve met a lot of amazing people, and a lot of this is just me listening to their stories.”

Dr Carson knows that not all health care technology and expertise is currently available in regional areas, but wants to continue to do more to increase the welfare of all regional patients.

“I want people in the bush to have the same health outcomes and the same chances as people in the city,” he said.

“Now, some of that is not doable yet.

“If you have a heart attack on Hay Street, you’re minutes away from one of the most well-resourced hospitals in Australia.

“If you have one while you’re harvesting, it’s a very different story.

“But there is some stuff we can do.

“We’ve done some of it – there’s an MRI down the corridor, telemedicine means we’ve got some serious expertise we can draw upon – and I want us to do more.

“People who live here should have every chance.”

Heartline is now on sale for $15 and is available for purchase at the Albany Health Campus, The Weekender office, Bay Merchants, the Albany Entertainment Centre and Paperbark Merchants.

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Higher studies for Lauren

SCIENCE university major Lauren Pullella will take her Albany studies to the next level after becoming the first recipient to be awarded the Arjen Ryder Memorial Scholarship.

The University of Western Australia (UWA) Albany Centre student will be supported by a $5000 scholarship to take her honours thesis for conservation biology into Malaysia and study the food availability and changing diets of the indigenous Orang Asli people.

This funding was provided to Ms Pullella in memory of Arjen Ryder, an Albany man with 30 years’ experience in the sustainable agricultural sector who died with his wife on the MH17 plane crash in Ukraine in 2014.

Ms Pullella’s month-long visit to Malaysia will explore why food ‘catch’ rates are low and where the Orang Asli food source is located, as the hunter-gatherer people are suffering from malnutrition due to their hunting practices.

The 22-year-old said that in collaboration with local community members, she will be deploying motion-sensor cameras in the jungles surrounding the Orang Asli villages to collect data on the presence and abundance of species hunted for food.

“The village I will be working with is slowly beginning to introduce more western agricultural and hunting practices into their lifestyle,” Ms Pullella said.

“The research will not only contribute to a greater understanding of the sustainability of the traditional Orang Asli diet, but will also help us to understand and potentially improve the sustainability of their hunting and agricultural regimes.

“I hope that one day, the sustainable agricultural model that we are using in this research will be adapted and applied locally in the South West.”

Ms Pullella, along with her supervisors, aims to visit Malaysia mid-next year, depending on climate conditions and government permission.

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Taking it to the streets

THE first-ever regional leg of the Australian National Busking Championships to be held west of Ballarat will roll out onto the footpaths of Albany’s CBD on April 7.

At a meeting called by Rotary member Ian Rayson at Albany’s city offices on Monday, local luminaries including Deputy Mayor Greg Stocks and author John Doust heard Rotarians had bought a licence to run a regional leg of the championships, which started six years ago in Cooma, New South Wales.

“I think it will fit very well into Albany,” Mr Rayson told the gathering.

“We need to ensure we attract a substantial influx of people to not only support the buskers but also create a market for the CBD businesses to capitalise on.”

The festival will fill the Albany CBD, largely York Street and Stirling Terrace, with a range of sights and sounds hitherto not seen or heard in the Great Southern.

Mr Rayson is looking for a naming rights sponsor, and buskers will be charged a fee to perform in CBD hotspots.

Visitors will be able to buy ‘busking dollars’ for $1 each to deposit into performers’ hats or violin cases.

The busker who collects the most busker dollars will win a people’s choice award and $1000.

Mr Rayson said proceeds from the busker dollars would go to a local musical organisation.

He said buskers would be able to pocket their earnings during the championships, as well as competing for $11,250 in prize money in open, high school, primary school and other niche categories.

The overall winner will receive $2000.

“Don’t worry, some of these buskers out there on the day make a lot of money,” he assured.

Five judges, including two from Cooma, will officiate on the day.

Open-air markets are also planned, and a busking grand final will be held from 4pm to 6pm.

Mr Rayson said the Town Square would be an ideal venue, weather permitting, but an alternative indoor venue might be sought in the event that Albany’s April weather goes awry.

He said the “bloody big” after-party and jam session that occurs in Cooma each year may well be replicated in Albany.

A prototype T-shirt has already been printed for volunteers on the day.

After hearing Mr Rayson’s presentation, Mr Stocks said, “the City’s in!”

“We’ll support it,” he added, before a city official said any support would be subject to formal approval.

Regional legs of the championships are already held at Ballarat in the Victorian goldfields, Narooma and Peak Hill in New South Wales, and Noosa and Stanthorpe in Queensland.

The Fremantle International Street Arts Festival finishes five days before the Albany championships.

Mr Rayson said he hoped performers from the Fremantle festival would make their way down the highway for the Albany championships.

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